Saturday, 31 December 2016

Princettias and Autumn in Japan


 Vegetable Garden Series part 3-the planting stage.
Living in a particular place in Australia means that you have a particular climate and also means that if you’re into gardening that you need to know which climatatic zone you are in.
Some books suggest different zones to what you think you are in and in can be a bit confusing .
But it’s important to newbie gardeners to know what climate zone they’re in because it determines the type of garden you’ll have and the plants that you’ll grow.
We’re going through a few basics in this next segments so let’s find out.
Private vegetable garden of Lyn Woods in Ulverston Tasmania
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist.

If you’re new to gardening then concentrate on what does well in your area.
Check the Bureau of Meteorology, local gardening groups and local newspapers to build a better picture of your local area.
In Australia we have 4 very broad climatic zones …
Hot tropics/subntropics
Cool Temperate
Arid areas
Hot Temperate
Very broad zones and then within these zones there are microclimates dependent on elevation and proximity to the coast. 
The higher you are the cooler the temperatures and the coast will keep temps more moderate – not as extreme.
These do get broken down into semi arid/arid climates, dry temperate and so on .
Of course every garden has its own microclimate depending if you live in a valley or on a hilltop.
How are vegetable classified or divided up?
Vegetables are basically divided into warm season and cool season
Warm season crops grow best when average temperatures 20 degrees
Cool season crops – best grown below 20 degrees
What are some examples?
Warm season
Tomatoes, sweet corn, French and runner beans capsicum, eggplant, cucumber,
 Cool season
Cabbage broccoli fennel cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts spinach, and peas.
If you have any questions about designing a veggie garden, write in to


Aubergines or Eggplants
This weeks Vegetable Hero is eggplants, aubergines to some and Solanum melongena to botanists.
Did you think that eggplant was a vegetable or a Fruit?
Yes, the eggplant is botanically a fruit, although the plant is used almost exclusively as a vegetable.
The eggplant is, or Solanum melongena, a member of the nightshade family closely related to the tomato and potato.

When you hear the words the night shade family you often think of “deadly”, and the reason for this is that the leaves and flowers of plants in the nightshade family are often poisonous.
So don’t forget that you can only use the “fruit” from this plant, which is the eggplant.

Did you know that the first eggplants to reach Europe during the Middle Ages were actually a rare white species, with oval fruits that closely resemble a hen’s egg?
No surprise that they began calling it eggplant even when other colours became popular.

The eggplant was once known as the “love apple” in England because it was thought to possess aphrodisiac properties. 
Without fail, everytime I hear that, I think that most vegetables and herbs were at one time considered an aphrodisiac at some point in history!
The eggplant is native to India and eastern Asia, and has been around for ages.
.Japan even has a proverb about eggplant:
“The happiest omen for a New Year is first Mount Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly eggplant.”
A Basic Guide for Growing Eggplants 
Eggplant is a short lived perennial plant that is usually grown as an annual. Eggplants grow best when the temperatures are at least 250C or above.
Eggplants or aubergines particularly resent frost and so far my plants from previous years never survive the cold and I have to start all over again.

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in Spring to Autumn in tropical areas, Spring to early Summer in temperate zones, October to January in arid areas and September through to December in cool climates.

Tip for cool temperate zones: A bit late for this year but next year but next year plan to start your seeds 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date.
That will allow your plants enough time to become sturdy.
Eggplants have to have full sunlight or they simply won’t grow well.
Any spot that gets about six to eight hours of full sun (meaning no shady plants or structures nearby to block the sun) would do well.
Give your eggplants a reasonable amount of space-each eggplant seedling should be spaced a minimum of 40cms apart from one another.
You’ll probably have only room for a couple to see how you go.
Mix some pelleted chicken manure, or blood’n bone and compost in with the soil before planting your eggplants.
Eggplant flower
The seedlings don’t need to be planted too far into the ground. Just enough so that the soil covers the roots is fine. 

After the seedlings have been transplanted, give them a little water and leave them to grow.

TIP:Don’t overwater your eggplants as they are susceptible to root rot.
Research the different types of eggplant before choosing the species you want to plant, as some of the larger varieties will require a stake to help lend support as they fruit.
Make sure to add a little mulch to the top of the soil to help keep moisture in the soil.
Good idea for areas that get quite warm or are prone to drought.
Ready for picking in about sixty days, you should notice the fruit popping up on your eggplants.
As eggplants are the tastiest when they are young, most people prefer to pick them when they are about one third of their potential size.
When you pick your eggplant fruit is really up to you. As soon as the “skin” of the fruit is glossy, it is typically ready to be picked.
If the skin has turned brown then you’ve waited too long to pick the fruit.
They come in many colours besides the purple variety, there are white and yellow varieties, and a dwarf species whose fruits grow only three or four inches long. 

Why not try ROSA BIANCA?
Vigorous Italian heirloom variety, heaps of fruit that are rosy lavender and white heavy teardrop shaped fruit with a mild flavour.


Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 7.5cm, lots of fruit in 65-85 days.

For cooler districts, why not try the funny soundying UDUMALAPET

Yellow-green teardrop shaped fruit with vibrant lavender stripes, best eaten small at 8cm.

A peculiar variety called the snake eggplant produces narrow, elongated fruits up to a foot in length with their ends curled up like a serpent’s tongue.
Why is it good for you?

Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fibre, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.

They are an excellent food to aid in weight loss, being low in calories and fat. Eggplant is a nutrient dense food, which will help you feel full, and there are only 20 calories in one cup in eggplants.

,. Go the eggplant.



Autumn in a Japanese Garden and Ephemeral Plants
In Australia, only some parts of the country have defined seasons.
In other parts, sometimes it feels like there are only two season, slipping from winter to summer, cold to hot, wet to dry.
In Japan, there are definite seasons, and they are celebrated not by just visiting the spectacular parks and gardens, but by the food that is consumed by the Japanese.
Every thought of eating a fried maple leaf?
Chantelle Leenstra in Japan (Own photo)
That's only some of the delights on offer when visiting Japan in Autumn.
I'm talking with Chantelle Leenstra, Prinicpla of Garden Atelier, Garden Designer and Public Speaker about her recent trip to see Autumn in Japan.

Not all areas of Australia have defined seasons.
However, if you want to celebrate a change of seasons you can grow plants which only flower in specific times here are some of our suggestions.
For cool temperate districts, Japanese Maples and Cherry Blossoms, Nerines, Oriental Lilies, and Tree Dahlias.
Golden chalice vine
For temperate gardens, Day Lilies,Golden Chalice vine (Solandra maxima), Canary Creeper(Senecio timoides)and Snake vines,( Hibbertia Scandens) plus Golden Rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata.)
Tropical zones: Poinciana tree, and Frangipanis. Check out the facebook page of the Frangipani Society of Australia.


Poinsettias Princettia
This next plant’s leaves was used by the Aztecs to make red dye and the plants’ milky white  sap  was also used to treat fevers.
Poinsettia Princettia Soft Pink
For some reason this next plant is considered a must have at certain times of the year.
The bloke that this plant was named after also founded the Smithsonian Institute in America.
What is it? Let’s find out..
I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

The ponsettias that you see for sale have been tricked into flowering in the summer months when they would prefer to flower when nights are long and days are short.
In America they're cheap as chips with plants selling for $US1 on 'Black Friday."
Here in Australia, plant growers have to provide a greenhouse with thick block out curtains to provide that 12 hours of darkness Poinsettias need to initiate flowering.
Then for the 'old school" varieties, they need to be sprayed with a dwarfing compound which is quite toxic, requiring the nurseryman/woman to suit up in protective clothing.
With all that extra effort, Poinsettias are that much more expensive to buy here.

Did you know that also in America Congress honor red Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851.
Poinsettias can be grown south of Brisbane right down to Coff's Harbour, and north of Brisbane they will grow as far as the land extends, although they can be difficult to grow in frost prone areas west of the coast.
They can also be grown in warm parts of South Australia and in Western Australia's coastal regions, particularly in the north.
If you have any questions about growing Poinsettias, why not write in to

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Summer Squash and Mouthewatering Blueberries


War on Weeds part 1. 

Physical and Cultural weeding practises.
Why is it that if you have strappy leaved plants in your garden, then grassy weeds colonise that plant just so you don’t notice them?
It’s not until those weeds start showing their seed heads that you realise that there’s a weed growing amongst that clump of daylilies or agapanthus.
Weeds sprouting in your vegetable garden include clover, petty spurge and panic veldt.
Then sometimes you just have to get down to ground level to see how many weeds have infiltrated that garden bed that you thought was thick with plants.
What can we do about them.
Let’s find out I'm talking with Steve Falcioni, general Manager of

Not only do they look unsightly put the weeds are stealing sunlight, water and nutrients from your precious plants, plus they're harbouring pests.
Often pests overwinter on your weeds ready to jump onto your plants when Spring arrives.
Hand weeds of course is great for small areas but for larger areas, perhaps hoeing or solarisation using black plastic is beneficial.
That old saying of 1 years seed gives 7 years weed holds true.
If you’ve just put away all your garden tools and cleaned up and then notice that clump of onion weed that’s in flower, the best thing to do if you haven’t got time or are just too tired is snap off those flowers.
Stopping the seeds from forming is a good start and the weed will still be there when you next get out into the garden.
If you have any questions pruning saws or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Summer Squash-Cucurbita pepo
Summer Button Squash is the yellow or green saucer shaped members of the Cucurbit family that includes pumpkins, melons and zucchinis. Cucurbita pepo.

If you don’t like the taste and texture of Button Squash, some even call patty pan squash, maybe you need to buy a different variety to zhuszh up your taste buds.
Did you know that squash comes from a native American word which means eaten raw or uncooked?
No surprises that archaeologists have traced squash origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BC.

In terms of nutrients, button squash give bananas a run for their money.

Button squash are small veggies that look a bit like space ships with scalloped edges.
It’s a twining vine with large, broad, spiny, lobed leaves and an angled, prickly green stem.
Its yellow flowers are either male or female and the female flowers, after fertilisation, grow those little buttons.
They grow to between 3 and 5cm in diameter and although come in other colours, the most common are the pale green and the bright yellow ones.

The inside of the squash is pale white and the whole squash is eaten cooked, including the skin and seeds.

Button summer squash, particularly the yellow button squash, is a warm weather squash preferring temperate climates with a well drained soil.

When to grow squash.

Squash can be grown all year round in hot, subtropical climates, from spring onwards in temperate zones and only in early summer in cool temperate regions.
As for arid zones, from Spring until early Autumn.
For tropical areas, summer squash is a bit of a misnomer because for you, growing squash is only during the dry season.
So squash can be grown somewhere in all parts of Australia right now.
In fact, did you know that Squash is grown in all horticultural production
areas including Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia,
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania?
Squash like to spread out, but will follow a trellis if the vines are tied to one.
Seeds can be planted individually into small holes or planted on small mounds, three to five to a mound.
This can take up a lot of space, but one squash plant can produce a lot of squash. Unless you’re feeding an army only plant one or two mounds of squash then.

Flowers on Squash, where are they?

Squash have male and female flowers that bees, flies, wasp or other creatures must pollinate it.
Do you only have male or just female flowers on your cucurbits?

Or did they fall down on the job for you last year?
If you got male and female flowers but not too many squash, plant plenty of flowers alongside your squash otherwise you’ll end up having to hand pollinate using an artist’s paintbrush.
Mostly gardeners start to worry when they see only male flower.
It is perfectly normal for the males to arrive first, and, they do so in big numbers.
A week or so goes by without any ladies appearing, and you are beginning to think there's a problem.
The female flowers usually arrive 10-14 days after you spot the first male. (Sometimes it takes a little longer than this).
Once the ladies appear, there’ll only be a few at a time.
The male flowers greatly out-number the female flowers.
It’s fairly uncommon for females flowers to arrive first but does occasionally happen.
Patience is all that's required.

Fertilising your squash
Squash are, like most vegetables, heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer and water.
Don’t over fertilize with chook poo pellets or you’ll have big plants and no squash.
Water requirements are high and you really need to be on top of keeping up the watering for your button squash during hot weather and when fruit is filling out.
If you don’t you’re very likely get shedding of flowers and partly formed fruit.
Button squash grows very quickly and will start producing us in about 8 weeks.
Pick your button squash carefully by cutting them from the vine through their stem.
Fact File
Did you know that button squash need to be harvested often even commercially because of their very soft skin and so they’re very labour intensive to grow?
Picking should be done regularly, at least every day as the fruit develops. When the squash start appearing more and more, you’ll have to go out more often to the veggie patch to pick them.
If you leave your squash on the plants too long they’ll stop growing new ones altogether.
Picking your Summer squash at about 2 ½- 3 cms in size is when they’re at their most tasty.
If you plant an open pollinated type, (doesn’t have hybrid in its name) you can let one or two squash grow out until they are completely ripe and save the seeds from them at the end of the season.
Some varieties from various online seed suppliers.
There’s a French heirloom variety Squash Jaune Et Verte especially for those of you who are not convinced about the merits of growing squash. Picked young, the flesh is sweet and buttery and the skin cooks to lime green. Compact variety producing scallop shaped fruit over a long period. Takes 7 weeks from seed to harvest.
New Gippsland Seeds-Golden Ruffles Hybrid is a Yellow Button Squash- High quality button squash capable of tremendous yields. Fruit gold, often with a green end spot. Tasty and popular.
Eden seeds_EARLY WHITE BUSH SCALLOPED Known pre 1722
Greenish-white skin, with lots of round flat fruit on a bushy plant. Best when picked young. 46-60 days.

Scalloped patty pan squash, pale green, harvest 7.5cm—10cm, fine texture, medium sized bush, very productive over a long period, popular traditional variety for home gardens. 47-56 days.
Why are they good for you?
Summer squash is very low in calories and high in fibre.
Button squash is rich in beta-carotene an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid and calcium.
One cup of summer squash has nearly as much potassium as a banana!
They also contain the valuable mineral nutrient phosphorus.
Button squash are vitamin C
The darker skinned squash supply some beta carotene.


Style of veggie patches
If you do want to have a dedicated area in the garden for growing your fruit and veg you need to think about actual layout for the planting areas
What are the options? 
Lyn Wood Vegetable Garden Ulverston Tasmania

You can have an in bed system where it is really just grown as you would any garden area or you can do raised beds either by building them up with materials such as timber sleepers or just by mounding the soil up …almost like a burrow and furrow style.
Have we convinced you yet to start a vegetable garden if you haven’t got one?
It might seem like a lot of hard work, but you don’t have to build it yourself.
There’s plenty of pre-packaged vegie beds read for you to install.
But in case you do want to build one, this segment has some tips.
Let’s find out…I'm talking withGlenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist.

Those treated pinelogs that don’t have arsenic are called ACQ.(alkaline, copper quaternary.)
Vegie Pod
There’s also “ecowood,” that uses a different treatment method from ACQ and will last the distance too. If you do have CCA treated pine and are worried about the arsenic in the pine, the CSIRO recommends painting the logs both inside and out or line the bed with builders plastic.


Blueberry "Vitality." Vaccinium corymbosum Vitality (high bush variety)Are you looking for something to boost your vitamin C without eating all that Broccoli? 
I know some Broccoli haters that would love this next fruit.
There’s a place in every garden or outdoor space for this evergreen plant that makes a great pot specimen or a low hedge that will end up being full of fruit.
Let’s find out..more.
I'm talking with the plant panel Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Blueberry vitality grows to 1m x 1m making a perfect low hedge and a great productive pot plant.
Light pink flowers appear during winter followed by fruit from late spring through to summer.
Blueberries have three common varieties: lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.
Lowbush blueberries – This variety, which produces a big harvest of intensely flavoured blueberries, is not grown in Australia’s milder climate. It thrives in colder climates in the northern hemisphere.
Highbush blueberries – This is the most common variety in Australia, with many cultivars suited to the Australian climate. The two most popular cultivars grown here are the Northern Highbush and the Southern Highbush. Just to confuse things, the Northern Highbush is grown in Victoria, Tasmania and Southern NSW; while the Southern Highbush is grown in milder regions like Northern NSW and Southern Queensland.
Rabbiteye blueberries – This is another late season variety, which can cope with warm and humid summers and tolerate dry conditions like no other, making it right at home in Northern NSW and Queensland. Its name comes from the calyx, which when ripening looks just like little rabbit eyes looking back at you.
Grey green elliptic -ovate leaves (5 cm) growing 1m x 1 m.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

All about Veggies, Veggies and Vegies.


It seems like a far fetched hippy idea that food can be free but in some centres around Australia, the idea has taken off.
Lou Risdale started the first Australian "food is free'project in Ballarat photo Weekly Times Ballarat.
Launched in 2012 and called the Food is Free project, the aim being to line your street with front yard community gardens which provide free harvests to anyone.
It kicked off in America initially but has had some support in Australia as well.
To find out more I spoke with a project team leader from Ballarat, Lou Risdale.

Lou's project is in a laneway in Ballarat that runs alongside her house.
This laneway receives a fabulous amount of sunlight and is a perfect space for people to either drop off or pick up free fruit and veggies.
At the moment, Lou has 30 volunteers that pass through the laneway a few times a day to pick off any spoilt fruit and veg.
Lou’s was the first project of this kind in Australia. and now about 100 people a day come and go at peak times, to this laneway project and it has proven to be a great meeting place for them as well.
The gardens are built and offered for free using salvaged resources that would otherwise be headed to the landfill.
By using drought-tolerant, wicking bed gardens, these low maintenance gardens only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks.
This simple tool introduces people to a very easy method of growing organic food with very little work.If you’re interested in starting your own food is free project just go to where you’ll find a guide on how to do just that.


Herb-Celery Leaf , Leaf Celery or Chinese Celery.
Leaf celery is also called Cutting Celery, Parcel, Smallage, Zwolsche Krul, and German celery.
Celery Leaf is botanically-(Apium graveolens var. secalinum).
Did you think there was only the celery with the stalks?
Maybe you’ve heard of Celeriac, well that’s a type of Celery too, but instead of stalks, it’s a bulbous root.
Well, there’s also a type of Celery that’s all leaf and nothing much else.
Before you say, I chuck the leaves away from the stalk celery, I say, hang on, this one tastes a bit better than those.

Celery Leaf looks similar to parsley but tastes similar but slightly better than regular stalk celery!
Some say it tastes a little stronger than stalk celery or celeriac.
Leaf Celery has been around for a long time and was in fact used by the ancient Romans as a medicinal herb.
Supposedly, Celery seed has been used for around 3000 years as a seasoning for food.
Did you know that crushed celery seeds are steam distilled to make celery oil?
This oil is used for flavouring sauces, meats, liqueurs, perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.
The reason I’m talking about Celery seed I’ll get to a little later.
Some gardeners have run out of room in their veggie bed already-full of tomatoes, Basil and whatnot.
Never fear, Leaf Celery will grow in pots because it’s a compact plant that only gets to around 20 – 25 cm.

if you live in a cool temperate district, container veggies can be moved under cover during winter.
Leaf Celery is a darker green with thin stalks and leaves that look like a cross between the Italian Parsley and the Curley Parsley.
Celery leaf is perfect for container gardens because it’s a cut and come again plant and is great used as a herb in stews, dressings and salads.

 When to plant:

 In cool temperate districts, Spring and Summer are your sowing times, in temperate and sub-tropical zones, you have from Spring right through to Autumn, in arid areas, the only time you can’t really sow it is in summer, and tropical districts win the jackpot, because they can sow it all year round.
How to grow:
From putting the seed into the ground or pot, it’ll take around 2-3 months.
Like most veggies, Leaf Celery needs full sun but can do alright in part shade in soil that’s not too dry.
You can start them off in punnets if you like because they don’t mind being transplanted.
Keep in mind, Leaf Celery isn’t frost tolerant.
Sow the very fine seeds thinly, and only 5mm (1/4”) deep.
Be careful not to cover the fine seeds too much because they need light to germinate.
For fine seeds I tend to use a light cover of vermiculite which I then mist to make moist.
They can be slow to germinate taking up to 21 days at 100C-180C, so be patient.
In warmer areas, seedlings should emerge in 1-2 weeks.
Once the seeds have germinated it’s a good idea to thin them out around 30cm (12”) apart.
TIP: number 1: Don’t let them dry out.
TIP: number 2:-If you believe in companion planting, then leaf Celery is supposed to be an insect repellent for cabbage white butterfly.
Try planting some around your Brassicas like Broccoli, Cauli, and Cabbage.
TIP: number 3 and now for the Celery Seed.
If you leave your Celery leaf over winter, the plant will bolt to seed in Spring.
What can you do with that?
Apart from replanting fresh seed, the seeds are actually edible.
Ever heard of Celery salt?
What you can also do is grind it up in your mortar and pestle with a little sea salt. Better than from the supermarket shelf.
 Plus you can enjoy the dainty white umbels of flowers.
 After a couple of months, pick leaves as you need them to put in soups, stews, stocks and sauces.
A few leaves go well in salads with a strong blue cheese or some or cured meats.
Why is it good for you?
the leaves are brimming with five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks. They're also a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidant’
The good thing is Leaf Celery is low in carbs, and has even a small amount of fibre


Starting a vegetable garden.
So you want to start a vegetable garden, but are not sure how to go about it.
Did you realise that it’s not just a matter of digging up a patch in your garden.
There’s so many more considerations and types of vegetable gardens to think about and over the next four weeks Glenice and I will be talking about all you need to know about starting a veggie garden.
Everything from the planning stage, to the build stage and planting out stage.
How do you start? Let’s find out…
starting a vegie garden photo Glenice Buck
I'm talking with Glenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist.

Where you should locate your new vegie garden, ideally a sheltered sunny flat location with lots of organic rich fertile soil but this is not very often the case.  
Really you can locate them anywhere as long as the area will get enough sun for vegetables to crop. If you can manage it, locate your vegie bed as close to the house as possible so it’s an area you see regular – this will encourage you to use it, 

Vegie garden photo Lyn Wood, Ulverston Tasmania
You could end up with something amazing like the vegetable garden in the above photo.
Growing your own food, even if you start small is such a great way to save money, control what goes into your food, and pick fresh from the garden even if it’s just herbs.
Don’t toy with the idea, go out and do it.


Persimmons Diospyros kaki
This next plant is in fact a functional fruit with many edible uses.
They’re orange and can be put into your kid’s lunchbox unpeeled, and can be eaten sliced or whole like a pear.
You can dice and freeze them, adding them to a smoothie as a thickener.
They can also be dried, changing them from a crisp consistency to a soft, date-like, chewy texture. Eaten this way, they are deliciously sweet and taste more like candy than dried fruit.
What is this tree? Let’s find out..
Persimmon fruit
I'm talking with the plant panel, Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

The Persimmon tree only grows to 5m so it's a small tree that can fit into any backyard, courtyard or even a pot on a balcony.
Persimmon tree has great Autumn colour
Trees are grafted making them a bit more expensive than other fruit trees to buy, but they're worth it if your love the sweet luscious fruit that they give.
Persimmons have a low chill requirement for bud break and flowering, which occurs in mid to late spring, after most other deciduous fruit trees and avoiding problems with late frosts. 
Did you know that unripe Japanese persimmons are full of tannin, which is used to brew sake and preserve wood in Japan?
The small, non-edible fruit from wild persimmon trees in Japan are crushed and mixed with water. This solution is painted on paper to repel insects.
This solution is also thought to give cloth moisture-repellent properties.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Clouds of Blue Leaves and Cape Gooseberries


Pruning Saws: all you need to know.

Pruning is one of those jobs that a lot of gardeners shy away from because of the fear that they’ll either ruin the shape of the plant or kill it outright entirely.
Because pruning is actually wounding the plant, it’s important to make sure you’ve got a proper reason for doing so, as well as using the proper tools with which to do it.
Let’s find out ..
I'm talking with Tony Mattson general manager of

Pruning saws are best for branches greater than 35mm or wood that's older than a couple of weeks.
It's easier to get in amongst the branches with a pruning saw than with a long handled lopper.
Rule of thumb: cut branches that are half the width of the blade.

So for a 300mm blade you can cut branches up to 150mm in diameter.
Pruneing saws need maintenance just like other garden equipment such as secateurs.
Tap of any sawdust and wipe the blade with a cloth that has been lightly dipped in methylated spirits.
This not only cleans the blade but disinfects it as well.
TIP:Buy pruning saws that you can get replacement blades for because they're notoriously difficult to sharpen.

For branches greater than 8cm in diameter, a chain saw is generally needed.
Chain saws should only be used with appropriate safety gear by people who have been fully trained in their use.
If you have any questions pruning saws or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Cape Gooseberries (Physalis peruviana)
This weeks Vegetable Hero is the Cape Gooseberry Physalis peruviana syn. P. edulis  also sometimes called the ground cherry, that can be grown in all parts of Australia.
Cape Gooseberry does best in temperate and subtropical areas but we can grow it elsewhere with a bit more care.
Cape Gooseberries are thought to have originated in Peru and were one of the few fresh fruits of the early settlers in New South Wales.
The plant is a straggling bush up to one metre tall with yellow fruits inside a brown papery envelope.
It’s a short lived perennial  and can tolerate some frost so growing it further south shouldn’t be a problem.
In colder climates treat the cape gooseberry as an annual, much like you would tomatoes.
The cape gooseberry is related to tomatillo, ground cherry and husk tomato, all in the genus Physalis.
Don’t confuse the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana with an entirely different species referred to as Gooseberry bush. Ribes uva-ursi
The Gooseberrybush will produce very sweet, tart berries, but the cape gooseberry is quite different- and nice!
Cape Gooseberries taste like tiny cherry tomatoes .
The best thing is that Cape Gooseberry is very easy to grow and as the fruit are popular with birds and plants can be easily spread around the garden.
The berry is the size of a cherry tomato,1-2 cm in size and  is very aromatic and full of tiny seeds.
How you know that the berries are ripe is when they turn a golden orange and drop to the ground.
When to Sow
The time to sow Cape Gooseberry seed in every region except Tropical is now until December.
For Tropical zones, Mar-August is the time to sow seeds.
If you sow the seeds in Spring and Summer you’ll get an Autumn harvest.
These plants grow in most soil types and do very well in poor soils and in pots.
The cape gooseberry will grow best on sandy to gravely loam.
They need lots of water throughout the growing year, except towards fruit-ripening time.
Sow seed at the usual depth rule-3x the diameter of the seed.
Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 25°C
Space plants: 50 cm apart if you want to go into production otherwise just try one plant first because they do produce quite a few fruits.
Harvest in 3-4 months or 14-16 weeks.
To get the most fruit from your cape gooseberries, they need to be in a sunny place as long as there is no risk of frost.
Water them regularly and, when they grow flowers, feed them every two
weeks with a tomato food.
Cape gooseberry plants get the same pests as what you’d get in your area from the common tomato.
No surprises there.
So it would be a good idea to plant them amongst your flower border where they will grow quite happily and confuse the nasties at the same time.

How Do You Eat Cape Gooseberries.
Cape gooseberry once extracted from its husk, can be eaten raw tasting bit like ordinary tomatoes maybe a bit more zingy.
They can be added to salads, desserts and cooked dishes, they are delicious stewed with other fruit, especially apples. They also go well in savoury dishes with meat or seafood,  as a flavouring, and in jams and jellies.
They can also be dried and eaten much like raisins or other small dried fruit.
Cape gooseberries contain large amounts of pectin, and are therefore suitable for jams and pies
Grab some cape gooseberry seeds from online seed suppliers, sprinkle a packet over your garden & go nuts!
The variety Golden Nugget grows to 1m
Why are cape gooseberries good for You?
Apart from their taste, Physalis is a good source of nutrients, minerals, vitamins.
Vitamins A, C & B, high in protein and rich in iron.


Sun Scorch on plantsEarlier in the year  Garden Designer Peter Nixon talked about challenges in the garden thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.

Leaf scorch on Lychee photo M Cannon
Today’s garden challenge is about scorch damage- that’s the browning of plant tissues, including leaf margins and tips, and yellowing or darkening of veins which may lead to eventual wilting and the leaf dropping off.
What can you do? Let’s find out…I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer

Sunburn on plants sounds a bit far- fetched but that’s what happens and if the air is hot enough, flowers will dry and curl up even if they’re in shade.
Leaf scorch on Bromeliads photo M Cannon
Affected plants may sometimes recover through watering and fertilization (if the cause is not over-fertilization).
Light pruning may also help to reduce the water-pumping load on the roots and stems.
Make sure that the watering you do actually gets down into the soil.


Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca)
Do you want some low mounded, hard as nails little plant to put at the front of the border.
Perhaps a little grassy mound that copes with a lot of dryness?’
Are you wondering but that sounds boring, green lawn then a border of mounds of green grass.
Sago palm surrounded by Blue Fescue photo Karen Smith
Well, there’s green and then there’s different types of green.
Not all grasses are green and this one’s blue.
So let’s find out what it is. I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Blue Fescue stays blue all year round and can be planted in full sun or partial shade.
The leaf blades grow longer in partial shade as seen in the photo below.
In dry weather extremes, the lower leaves will brown off and look unsightly.
Rescue your plant by cutting back the dead leaves and watering with a seaweed extract and/or soil wetter to ensure that moisture is getting to the plant below the soil surface.

Did you know that there are ten thousand different species of grass worldwide?

Everywhere you look there’s some grass.
Also all grasses are wind pollinated but not all grasses affect people like Rye grasses do for example.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jerry's Gone Amongst the Rhubarb


Brown Gerygone

Belonging to the family of Scrubwrens means this tiny bird is very hard to identify if you see it flitting about in the bush. 
In fact if you were on a guided walk you might be told that they belong to the group SBB or small brown birds. 
Brown Gerygone photo John Gunning

Did you know though that this particular bird builds a truly unusual nest and you can recognise the call if you think of a little phrase, "which is it?"
Let’s find out what it is.. I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons Manager of www.birdsinbackyards. 

Gerygone is pronounced Jerr-Ig-O-Knee  
By the way the phrase to help you recognise the call “which is it” is an Onomatopoeia: a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing. 
And a note from a photographer about this bird reads “I'm convinced these birds are physically unable to keep still and take great delight in hiding behind leaves in perfect light or perching on open branches in the darker areas.” 
If you have any questions about the Brown Gerygone or have a photo or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Rhubarb Rhubarb or botanically Rheum x hybridum.
The word rhubarb originates from Latin.
Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?
You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel.
But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family.
If that’s a bit Confucius, in 1947, in the United States, a New York court decided since it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
Rhubarb [Rheum x hybridum] came to Australia from England with the first free settlers, and was well established by 1840.
Did you know though that until 1890 all culinary rhubarb worldwide was winter deciduous, until an Australian market gardener [Mr Topp of Bendigo Victoria] bred an evergreen variety and called it "Topp's Winter”

Rhubarb x hybridum photo M Cannon
So what is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.
Herbaceous because it dies down in winter, perennial because it regrows from year to year.
Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem part of the plant.
The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.
What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.
How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb? In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.
Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?  
Normally I would talk about when to plant Rhubarb crowns which for most districts is a bit late now.
Instead today I’m going to suggest that you can sow seeds of rhubarb.
You can buy the seeds online from a variety of seed companies in Australia or you might be able to source some from your local garden club.
How to sow Rhubarb seeds
The seeds are encased in a rather large paper-like shell. You need to first soak the seeds in water for a few hours before planting.
After that sow them into punnets using a good quality seed raising mixture.
Don’t use potting mix because it’s too coarse and doesn’t contain the right amount of fertiliser to get those seeds going.
Rhubarb seeds photo Flora Cyclam Flikr

Seeds should germinate in about 10 days at this time of year.
Keep your seedlings evenly moist but don’t over-water (the seedlings can die from root rot if the ground is too wet).
The stems of rhubarb grown from seed will not all have that intense red colour that you see in fruit and veg stores.
Some stems will be red, some green, and some in between.
But they will all taste the same, perfect for your rhubarb and apple crumble.

IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.

The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic. There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison as well as being corrosive. Other methods of growing Rhubarb is by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.
If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud.
This is a good way to share your plant with friends.
Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.
Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.
Use large amounts of organic matter like pelletised poultry manure and/or cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.
Tip: Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.
During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well.
You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years.
So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.
The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet? There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.
On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green or red or in between and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be the same colour that started out with.
When you’re picking those rhubarb stems here are some tips to keep your plant growing well.
Let some leaves remain on the plants during summer to generate energy and reserves for the following year.
The recommendation is harvesting a few stems at a time, in spring and autumn only. It’s best not to stress the plants during the summer, so avoid harvesting at this time. Frost will kill all the leaves, so harvest all the leaves when frost threatens in Autumn.
There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem. Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.
Which Seed Variety Should You Buy?
Until now seed grown rhubarb has had a bad name, because almost all available rhubarb seed is the winter dormant “Victoria” or variations of it.
Some people will tell you that green is all you will get.
It goes to seed readily, and is extremely variable; often only one plant in 1000 is worth keeping.
There’s a company called French Harvest that collects seed from its extensive rhubarb trial fields which are open-pollinated with over 50 different superb non-deciduous red commercial clones grown in close proximity.
They say that it germinates well, and if sown in the spring, can be ready to pick in only 6 months. Approximately 90% of the plants will be red, with a good percentage of stunning red clones.
Growing rhubarb from French Harvest seed has many benefits over root division.
It’s virus free.
The variations obtained from seed raised stock increase the chances of finding a variety suitable to grow on your site.
Large numbers of plants may be obtained quickly.
Low cost per plant. Their trial fields contain unrelated Rheum X’s (rhubarb) resulting in many of their seedlings exhibiting hybrid vigour.
The chance of finding your own new clone and naming it.
Remember all of today’s commercial rhubarbs were once seedlings
The Website
Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?
The good: news rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese


Scented Leaves to "Brush By."
Continuing the series on scented plants and scented leaves.

Lavandula sp. photo M Cannon
Was it a term coined by Peter? It seems likely but until Peter mentioned the term, “brush by” I had never come across it.
In fact if you did a search on the internet for “brush by plants” you get a selection of Bottle Brush plants.
That’s not it. If you put in just “brush by”, you guessed it, a selection of definitions on brushing and websites selling hairbrushes.
So what does it mean? 
Let’s find out..I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer and project Manager of Paradisus Garden Design.

Scented leaves on Geraniums, Lavenders, licorice scented leaves of Agastache, and Bee Balm or Bergamot. Just some of the plants to choose from for your brush by garden.


Artemisa vulgaris Common Wormwood
If you’re hankering after scented leaves with silvery-grey foliage, you can’t go past these (wormwoods) plants. 
Not only do they have lacey foliage, but their scent makes them a perfect “brush by” plant.

So let’s find out wwhy they're so good. I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Artemisia vulgaris photo M Cannon
All wormwoods are member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family, and are related to Tarragon.
Wormwood silver-grey leaves look almost likefeathers and both the stem and upper surface of the leaves are covered with small, whitish hairs.
Once established, this plant can cope with any amount of dry conditions because it’s that tough.